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Sloan Center News

Driving Innovation With Age Diversity

30 October 2009—One of my favorite cartoons created by Robert Mankoff depicts an executive entering the office and stopping by the assistant’s desk to pick up messages.  The assistant informs the executive, “Sir … the following paradigm shifts occurred while you were out.”

Well, there has certainly been a paradigm shift with regard to aging and work.

Not so long ago, we immediately linked “older workers” to “retirement.”  The old way of thinking suggested that the most important resource employers could offer older workers was a solid retirement package (and maybe a watch).

Although employer supports for retirement continue to be valued by older (as well as younger) workers, many of the old paradigms about aging and work do not seem to fit with today’s circumstances.  New ideas about supporting today’s multi-generational workforce have emerged.  These innovations include the expansion of flexible work options, modification of training and career development resources for older workers, multi-generational training for managers, the formalization of knowledge transfer procedures, and network groups.

What about transformative ideas that focus on the potential assets associated with age diversity? 
What about transformative ideas that go beyond “shoring up” possible deficits attributed to employees in different age groups? 
What about transformative ideas that challenge employees to engage with employees at different career stages as well as those from different generations?

In the spring of 2010, the Center will implement the first of our Executive Innovation Labs, designed to support workplace leaders interested in leveraging the power of age diversity.  In our Lab, each participating executive will work with a special multi-generational work-team, which will contribute innovative ideas about the executive’s identified problem.  Lab sessions are based on models of change at the workplace connected to real problems and sustainable learning experience.

Executive Innovation Lab